2022-23 NHL schedule takeaways: What to watch for and games you can't miss

The NHL's 2022-23 schedule has dropped and fans around the league are already planning their homestands and road trips.

Here are some of things that stand out in the newly released schedule, from the games to watch to the trends that matter.

Return to normalcy ... almost

The NHL expects to play a full "traditional" 82-game season for the first time since 2018-19. Last season the league built in a pause for about three weeks after its All-Star break to accommodate players participating in the Winter Olympics, something that ended up not happening due to COVID-19 postponements and concerns about player safety in Beijing. This season the NHL's All-Star weekend -- hosted by the Florida Panthers -- falls on Feb. 3 and 4.

The last scheduled day for the regular season is April 13; last season, it was May 1.

There is one quirk to the schedule when it comes to the NHL's signature regular-season game: The Winter Classic. The matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins at Fenway Park will be played Jan. 2 rather than the traditional New Year's Day. That's because Jan. 1 falls on an NFL Sunday. It's only the third time since the outdoor event began in 2008 that it won't be played on New Year's Day.

Panic! At The Cup Celebration

The NHL likes to start off its season with the Stanley Cup champions raising their newest banner, just as the Tampa Bay Lightning did to kick off the 2021-22 season. Alas, the Colorado Avalanche will not raise their banner Oct. 11 because their home, Ball Arena, is booked that night with a Panic! At The Disco concert. Instead, the Avalanche will celebrate their first Stanley Cup since 2001 on Oct. 12, before their game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Well, this calls for a toast. So pour the champagne, pour the champagne ...

The Stanley Cup Final rematch will have to wait until Thursday, Feb. 9, when the Avalanche visit the Lightning.

Thanksgiving Eve and Season-Ending Chaos

Two of the NHL's low-key greatest traditions will continue this season. On Wednesday, Nov. 23, the NHL has 15 games before going dark on (American) Thanksgiving. Only the Los Angeles Kings and Lightning aren't in action the day before Turkey Day.

Wednesday, Nov. 23 (all times Eastern)

  • St. Louis at Buffalo, 7 p.m.

  • Boston at Florida, 7 p.m.

  • Toronto at New Jersey, 7 p.m.

  • Calgary at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

  • Philadelphia at Washington, 7 p.m.

  • Arizona at Carolina, 7 p.m.

  • Montreal at Columbus, 7 p.m.

  • Winnipeg at Minnesota, 7 p.m.

  • Nashville at Detroit, 7:30 p.m.

  • Edmonton at N.Y. Islanders, 7:30 p.m.

  • Chicago at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

  • Vancouver at Colorado, 10 p.m.

  • Ottawa at Vegas, 10 p.m.

  • N.Y. Rangers at Anaheim, 10 p.m.

  • San Jose at Seattle, 10 p.m.

Then on April 13, it's another 15-game extravaganza with 12 games between divisional rivals -- hopefully at least one of which adds up to major playoff implications ...

Thursday, Apr. 13

  • Ottawa at Buffalo, 7 p.m.

  • Boston at Montreal, 7 p.m.

  • Detroit at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.

  • Carolina at Florida, 7 p.m.

  • Toronto at N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.

  • New Jersey at Washington, 7 p.m.

  • Pittsburgh at Columbus, 7 p.m.

  • Minnesota at Nashville, 8 p.m.

  • Philadelphia at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

  • St. Louis at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

  • Winnipeg at Colorado, 9 p.m.

  • San Jose at Edmonton, 9 p.m.

  • Vancouver at Arizona, 10 p.m.

  • Los Angeles at Anaheim, 10 p.m.

  • Vegas at Seattle, 10 p.m.

... especially in the Pacific Division.

Coyotes' freshmen orientation

As the Arizona Coyotes seek a new arena in Tempe after the city of Glendale refused to extend their lease, the Coyotes will play at a new arena on the campus of Arizona State University for at least the next three seasons.

There was some speculation that the Coyotes might have to start the 2022-23 season on the lengthy road trip while work on ASU's new multipurpose arena was finished. The New York Islanders, for example, had to play 13 games on the road to start last season as UBS Arena was completed.

While they aren't starting the season with a long road trip, the Coyotes are barely home for the first two months of the season. After opening the season with six road games, they play four straight at Arizona State, including their home opener Oct. 28 against the Winnipeg Jets. Then the Coyotes are off for a 14-game road trip that will take them from the East Coast to Vegas to the mid-Atlantic back to the West Coast and then finishes with a swing through western Canada.

Their next home game after a Nov. 3 contest against Dallas is Dec. 9 against Boston.

The Coyotes tell ESPN that the road trip is by design. The annex building with the NHL-quality dressing rooms won't be ready until December. The four home games in October will be played using temporary dressing rooms in order to "break up the schedule a bit for the players," the team said.

Of course, things do balance out. The Coyotes play 19 of their last 26 games of the season on campus.

The games you can't miss

Jan. 16: Dallas at Vegas, 6 p.m. ET
It's the Pete DeBoer Revenge Tour, as the fired Golden Knights coach leads his new team against a conference rival and his former players.

Oct. 15: Los Angeles at Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET
The first game back in Minnesota for Kevin Fiala after he was traded to the Kings in the offseason.

Dec. 5: Vegas at Boston, 7 p.m. ET
This game has two points of intrigue. The first is the return of former Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy to Boston as Vegas head coach. The second is the first game in Boston for Boston University alum Jack Eichel as a member of the Golden Knights.

Nov. 15: New Jersey at Montreal, 7 p.m. ET
No matter who goes first and who goes second in the 2022 NHL draft, this would be the first scheduled meeting between those two rookies -- provided they both play in the NHL next season. If they don't ... hey, Jack Hughes vs. Nick Suzuki is still on the card.

March 1: Toronto at Edmonton, 8 p.m. ET
March 11: Edmonton at Toronto, 7 p.m. ET

Connor McDavid vs. Auston Matthews, twice in a 10-day span. McDavid, the NHL leader in points last season and runner-up for the Hart Trophy. Matthews, the leader in goals last season and the winner of the NHL's MVP award. Two generational talents and always a must-see matchup for hockey fans.

Oct. 15: Calgary at Edmonton, 10 p.m. ET
Oct. 29: Edmonton at Calgary, 10 p.m. ET
Dec. 27: Edmonton at Calgary, 9 p.m. ET

The Battle of Alberta. If you got a taste for the chaos during their epic playoff series, suffice it say their regular-season meetings are just as fun.

Nov. 9: Pittsburgh at Washington, 7:30 p.m. ET
Jan. 26: Pittsburgh at Washington, 7 p.m. ET
March 25: Washington at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. ET

We have a scant few years left of being able to watch Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin battle for their respective teams in this decades-old rivalry. Cherish them and enjoy these fren-emies while we can.